Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Nathalie Goldowski was a metallurgist at the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (“Met Lab”). She was one of the many refugee scientists, who participated in the Manhattan Project.

Following Hitler’s occupation of France, Goldowski fled with her mother to the United States. The two settled in Chicago and Goldowski began to work as a research associate for Sciaky Brothers. 

In 1943, she joined the Met Lab. According to the Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project, her specialties were corrosion of metals, surface films on aluminum, stress corrosion, protection of aluminum alloys, and surface preparation of aluminum alloys for spot welding.

At the Met Lab, Goldowski focused on corrosion of aluminum alloys and beryllium. Her main contribution to the Manhattan Project was determining a way to prevent the corrosion of the aluminum jackets surrounding the uranium fuel in the plutonium production reactors. She engineered a noncorroding aluminum coating that was greatly important to plutonium production.


Early Years

In 1908, Nathalie Goldowski was born in Moscow, Russia. She was a member of the Russian aristocracy. At the age of nine, she fled with her mother to Paris in 1917 to escape the Russian Revolution.

In 1935, she received her Dr.Sc. from the University of Paris. Four years later, she earned her Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

After earning her Ph.D., she worked for the French Air Ministry and became its Chief of Metallurgical Development. She was just thirty-two years old at the time. Goldowski realized that bolting strips of magnesium to the fuselages of French seaplanes would protect the plane’s aluminum airframes from salt water corrosion. 


Later Years

During the Cold War, Goldowski experienced trouble under McCarthyism. She was barred from working in the new national laboratories because her Russian and French background could not be determined. She also did not naturalize to become an American citizen until 1947. 

As a result, Goldowski went into academia. She taught in the Physics and Math Departments at Princeton and then Black Mountain College in North Carolina. While at Black Mountain College, she married one of her students. 

After Black Mountain College closed in 1952, Goldowski worked in the industrial sector. Later, she became a professor of physics and ceramics at Alfred University in New York. 

During the course of her academic career, she lectured at the Nobel Institute and the Belgian Royal Academy. For producing a movie on metal corrosion, she won a medal. 

Later in life, she emigrated with her husband to Mexico. In their new home, the couple became scientific translators. In 1966, Nathalie Goldowski died in Mexico.


For more information about Goldowski and women in the Manhattan Project, please see the following reference:

Nathalie Goldowski's Timeline
1908 Born in Moscow, Russia.
1917 Fled to Paris with her mother.
1935 Received her Dr.Sc. from the University of Paris.
1939 Earned her Ph.D. in physical chemistry.
1940 Served as the Chief of the Metallurgist Department for the France Air Ministry.
1943 Began working at the Met Lab.
1947 Became an American citizen.
1966 At the age of fifty-eight, she died in Mexico.

Related Profiles

J. K. Lower

T-Plant/200 Areas

Lower worked in the 200 W Area at Hanford during the Manhattan Project.

L. G. Henry

Y-12 Plant

L. G. Henry worked for the Tennessee Eastman Corporation at the Y-12 Plant.

Oscar C. Nicholson

Tinian Island

Oscar C. Nicholson served in the 1st Ordnance Squadron.

F. R. Vincent

B Reactor/100 Area

Vincent worked at the 100-D Area at Hanford during the Manhattan Project.